General Aviation

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Astronaut (Col.) Joe Engle and son Jon with a general aviation L-5 Piper Cub

General Aviation refers to all flying except the scheduled airlines, the military, and ultra light vehicles. All aviation in the United States in governed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

General Aviation includes many forms of commercial, corporate, private, recreational, and sport flying.

Air Charter is a form of "on demand" commercial service in which the customer is flown to his destination on his own schedule, and to thousands of airports not served by the scheduled airlines.

Many corporations own, lease, or share aircraft of various sizes to transport their own executives and employees wherever they need to go.

Private pilots, usually flying single-engine airplanes, make thousands of flights every day to points all over North America. These usually have a speed range of between 70 and 250 mph. Within the range of the airplane, perhaps up to one-third of the continent, a small airplane is often quicker than the commercial airlines because it can be flown directly from the departure point to the ultimate destination. This eliminates the need to arrive at a large congested airline terminal two hours before the departure time, the need for stopovers and connecting flights, as well as the need for extended ground transportation after the flight. Small airplanes can utilize thousands of landing areas not available to larger aircraft, and serving hundreds of towns without commercial airline service.

General aviation is also responsible for thousands of missionary and humanitarian flight each day all over the world. In many countries, small airplanes are the only modern means of transportation between remote places.

Daily, often through the night hours, such carriers as FedEx and United Parcel Service move tens of thousands of packages by air. General Aviation is serving all Americans in ways that are not readily visible to us.

General Aviation also includes such occupations as agricultural spraying, pipeline, power line maintenance, forestry and wildlife management, law enforcement, and flight instruction. Most pilots, even of large aircraft, received their initial instruction in small single-engine airplanes.

The standard Pilot's License is a Private Pilot License, but in the United States there are two other lower levels of licenses: Recreational Pilot and Sport Pilot. A person interested in flying as a career could use one of these as a step toward his Private Pilot license, or he could get a the Private license as his first one. His next step would an Instrument Rating which allows him to fly in clouds and restricted visibilities, then a Commercial License, which means he can now fly for pay in some cases. A Multi-engine Rating prepares him to fly airplanes with more than one engine. A Type Rating is required for each make and model of jet aircraft. or an aircraft weighing over 12,500 pounds. An Airline Transport Pilot license (ATP) is required to fly large transports such as commercial airline passenger airplanes.

General Aviation also includes gliders, seaplanes, and various vintage aircraft flown mostly for sport and historical preservation.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) are two of the most influential organizations representing General Aviation

See also